The remarks come as a number of countries including some in Europe are firming up their Indo-Pacific strategies and outlook
NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday said a rules-based international order was achievable only with a rules-based Indo-Pacific region adding that an Indo-Pacific which was guided by norms and governed by rules coupled with the freedom of navigation and open connectivity besides respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty was an article of faith for New Delhi.
Speaking at the London based Policy Exchange think tank, Indian foreign secretary Harsh Shringla defined India’s view of the Indo-Pacific as stretching from the east coast of Africa all the way to the west coast of the US. Shringla is currently in London on the third and last leg of a three nation European tour.
India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific included “securing end-to-end supply chains in the region; no disproportionate dependence on a single country; and ensuring prosperity for all stakeholder nations," he said.
“An Indo-Pacific guided by norms and governed by rules, with freedom of navigation, open connectivity, and respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states, is an article of faith for India," Shringla said.
The remarks come as a number of countries including some in Europe are firming up their Indo-Pacific strategies and outlook. These include France, Germany and Netherlands. India and France have been collaborating closely on the Indo-Pacific. Germany has announced that one of its warships would be patrolling the Indian Ocean and make port calls in Australia and the French Reunion Islands. Elsewhere, Canada is also looking to come out with an Indo-Pacific strategy. A Canadian naval ship sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait in October, according to a Reuters report. The voyage came at a time of heightened military tension between China and Taiwan. China has also been flexing its military muscles in the South China Sea and East China Sea. China is also in the midst of a tense military face off with India in Ladakh.
The speech also came as navies from the four “Quad" countries – India, Australia, the US and Japan – were engaged in naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal near the Malacca Straits that is viewed as a vulnerable area for China given that a sizeable quantity of its trade and fuel supplies from the Gulf region passes through the straits. China views the “Quad" with suspicion accusing the US of bringing the four countries together in an “Asian NATO" to contain it.
In his speech, Shringla said that the Cold War had divided the Indo-Pacific into different military theatres. In the 21st century, the “interconnectedness" of the Indo Pacific was however becoming evident.
"A motivating factor is the region’s emergence as a driver of international trade and well-being. The Indo-Pacific ocean system carries an estimated 65% of world trade and contributes 60% of global GDP. Ninety per cent of India’s international trade travels on its waters. For us, and for many others, the shift in the economic trajectory from the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific has been hugely consequential. The rise of China and the imperative for a global rebalancing have added to the mix. A rules-based international order is achievable only with a rules-based Indo-Pacific," Shringla said.
Explaining India’s “Indo-Pacific geography" as “a succession of semi-circles" Shringla said the “innermost semi-circle incorporates our closest neighbours." These were the South Asian countries that share the waters of the Indian Ocean, civilisational and cultural heritage with India.
“The arc of the outer neighbourhood" covers the Gulf states to India’s west and Southeast Asia to the east, he said. While there were connections in history, in modern times, business and trade, energy and investment flows, and labour and skills mobility have added new dimensions to India’s ties to these regions, he said.
Moving further outward, “India has created partnerships and mechanisms with countries the opportunities, concerns and stakes of which intersect with ours. This is a broad sweep, from the Pacific Islands to the archipelagos of the western Indian Ocean and off the eastern coast of Africa. Networks such as Quad, with India, the United States, Japan and Australia as participants, and the India-Japan-US, India-France-Australia and India-Indonesia-Australia trilateral arrangements offer cases in point," he said.
On its part, India has sought to strengthen security and freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific by becoming a net security provider – participating in peacekeeping efforts or anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, he said.
“Sharing what we can, in equipment, training and exercises, we have built relationships with partner countries across the region. In the past six years, India has provided coastal surveillance radar systems to half a dozen nations – Mauritius, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar and Bangladesh. All of these countries also use Indian patrol boats, as do Mozambique and Tanzania," he said.
India has also increased its defence training programmes in the region with mobile training teams deputed to 11 countries – from Vietnam to South Africa, as well as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar in our immediate neighbourhood, he said. In times of natural calamities, India has played its role as the first responder, he said listing assistance extended to Sri Lanka during a cyclone in 2016, to cyclone hit Mozambique last year, during landslides, deaths and large-scale displacement of people in Madagascar in January this year as some of the examples.
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